OP – The Blog

December 5th, 2013

Aspens in the Snow

Posted By Michael Frye

Aspens and pines in an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA; 1/8 sec at f/22, ISO 50

Aspens and pines in an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA; 1/8 sec at f/22, ISO 50

In October I fulfilled a long-time dream: to photograph autumn aspens in the snow. I posted one photograph from that snowy day here, and two more from the following morning here. But I made a lot of other images during that storm, and now finally have a chance to show you some of them.

On that snowy October day it was a challenge to keep my camera dry, keep snow and water drops off the lens, and stay warm myself. But it was a rare opportunity, and I didn’t want to wait until the snow stopped, because the falling snow itself gave the photographs an ethereal quality, almost like fog.

For almost every composition I tried a variety of shutter speeds. Fast shutter speeds, like 1/125th of a second and above, rendered the falling snowflakes as little white dots, giving the photographs a pointillistic look. Slow shutter speeds, like 1/8 of a second and below, would make the flakes disappear and turn the atmosphere into a thin fog, especially if it wasn’t dumping too hard. In-between speeds (in the 1/30th- to 1/60th-of-a-second range) turned the snowflakes into streaks.

It was impossible to photograph into the wind, as water drops would quickly cover the lens. Even when looking away from the wind a long lens hood was necessary to keep the front element dry. That meant that I used my 70-200mm zoom exclusively, but that wasn’t a problem, as it was the perfect lens for these more intimate landscapes. There are many commercially-available camera rain covers, but I just threw an extra rain jacket over the camera. No matter how careful you are, however, under these conditions it’s inevitable that the camera will get some water on it, so I was thankful to have a well-sealed camera body.

This was such a fun day, despite the cold and damp. As I said before, I was like a kid in a candy store. The only problem was that it was hard to pick out the best images later! So if you have a favorite from this group let me know.

— Michael Frye

Aspens in an autumn snowstorm, Conway Summit, Toiyable NF, CA, USA

Aspens and blowing snow, Toiyable NF, CA, USA; 1/45 sec. at f/11, ISO 3200

Aspens in an autumn snowstorm, Conway Summit, Toiyable NF, CA, USA

Aspens in an autumn snowstorm, Toiyable NF, CA, USA; 1/180 sec. at f/11, ISO 3200

Aspens in an autumn snowstorm, Conway Summit, Toiyable NF, CA, USA

Pointillistic aspens, Toiyable NF, CA, USA; 1/180 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600

Aspens with a dusting of snow, Conway Summit, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspens with a dusting of snow, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA; 1/180 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600


Aspens and pines in an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA

Aspens and pines, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA 1/8 sec. at f/22, ISO 50

Aspens line a watercourse during an autumn snowstorm, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspens line a watercourse during an autumn snowstorm, Inyo NF, CA, USA; 1/10 sec. at f/22, ISO 100

Related Posts: Autumn Snow; A Landscape Transformed; Dealing With Bad Weather; A Rainy, Misty Day in Yosemite Valley, and a Quick Fall Color Report

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.

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Please leave a comment

  1. Paul Phillips Says:

    I like the faster shutter speeds and the resulting “pointillistic”pictures.
    The last picture looks like an area just north of Lee Vining. It’s hard to capture the whole switch back of color at ground level. I was contemplating renting a single engine plane at Mono lake and flying over that switch back ( if it’s the same one) to take pictures. I couldn’t get my friends to humor me though. A 1000′ of elevation would make a world of difference. It’s hard to find aerial photography subjects like that. That airport is easy to get in and out of too. If need be, I assume you could hire a pilot there. By the way, I do like that picture as is.

  2. Michael Frye Says:

    Thanks for chiming in here Paul. Yes, that zig-zag is just north of Lee Vining, so I’m sure it’s the same one you’re thinking of.

  3. Len Noble Says:

    Love your “Aspen and Pines”.

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